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Trigger Food, Forbidden Food, & More: Simple Tips to Eat Without Binging

Do you have a trigger food? Or a list of forbidden foods? 

What happens when you eat those forbidden foods? Are you riddled with guilt? Once you start eating them, do you find that you can’t stop, and that you binge on them?

I hear so often from clients that they avoid foods they really like because they don’t trust themselves to not overeat them. Well, this rarely works in the long run.

But why?

Well, restriction is the driving force behind most binge eating episodes. If you avoid a certain food you really want for an extended period of time, when you eventually have it, there is a good chance you’ll overeat it. Not only because you have felt deprived but you may also be telling yourself in the moment that later you can’t have the food again. 

Before I dive into a simple strategy to help you eat a trigger food without worrying about binging, I want to point out that one technique doesn’t serve as a magic wand to instantly cure binge eating. 

When I work with clients one on one, I guide them through a process that first helps them identify and meet their basic needs as well as identify habitual behaviors that need to be reprogramed in order for them to truly be successful.

Throughout the process of working together, I often use a technique I call Delay and Distract but Don’t DepriveTM.

This technique works great for some people all on its own. Others may need to combine it with additional coaching and other strategies.  

When I speak at my Nutrition Talks, I teach my audience about how to bring the joy back to food with mindful eating. I also teach them that the Delay and Distract but Don’t DepriveTM method is more effective at helping you enjoy your favorite food without overeating when you are in a more mindful and conscious state (to learn more about mindful eating, check out this blog post).

The Trick to Being Able to Eat Your Trigger Foods without Binge Eating

Here’s how the Delay and Distract but Don’t DepriveTM technique works:

Step 1: Portion

Portion out a reasonable amount of the food you are craving, then put the container away. It should be enough to satisfy you but not so much that it will make you uncomfortably full. 

Step 2: Determine a Distraction

Determine a distraction task to be used later. It doesn’t have to be anything significant. It could be as simple as changing your laundry, making a call, going for a walk, checking your email, etc.

Step 3: Enjoy Your Treat

Sit down undistracted to enjoy the treat you portioned out in step 1. Pay attention to all five senses while eating. Enjoy it without guilt.

Step 4: Distract Yourself

When you are done eating your trigger food (and the dopamine that just flooded your brain is leaving, your brain is likely screaming “give me more!”) push yourself to do the task you set in step 2.  

It is crucial that you do step 2 before you start eating. Otherwise, your brain may be too clouded with dopamine to resist going back for more. It’s also important in this step to avoid using restrictive self-talk like “this is all I can have” or “I can’t or shouldn’t have more.”

You aren’t saying no, you’re just saying not now. This helps teach the brain that it is okay to delay gratification.

Step 5: Re-Evaluate

After finishing the task from step 2, re-evaluate if you want another portion and repeat these steps if necessary. The point isn’t to deprive yourself of what you want but rather to distract yourself so you can delay eating. Essentially it is used to practice delayed gratification. 

This technique is meant to be used to prevent yourself from overeating your trigger food and becoming uncomfortably full. It is not intended to be used to under eat. Honor your hunger and satiety through the process. 

Some situations where this technique can come in handy include:

  • When you want to have food you really enjoy but are fearful of overeating or binging on it
  • When you find yourself wanting to mindlessly snack
  • When you are at a party or social event and don’t want to lose control at the food table
  • When you want to slowly reintroduce foods that you are afraid to eat
  • When you are trying to reduce the severity of a binge episode. It can be unrealistic for some people to just “stop binging” very abruptly.  Gradually lessening the severity of a binge can be a great 1st step. 
  • When the abundance of food in the breakroom at work becomes a big distraction

To get yourself out of the diet cycle and learn how to get started with mindful eating, click here.

If you want more information on how to eat a balanced diet, consider signing up for a coaching session with me (you can also contact me or schedule a free strategy session with me here).

And don’t forget to join my free Online Wellness Support Community for help staying committed to healthy living and connecting with people who want to learn more about mindful eating.

Enjoyed this article? Here are a few more popular articles!

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Dina Garcia, RD, LDN
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